Whether you are looking for a job, work for yourself, or have the illusion that you’ll be working at your current job until the world ends, you need your network. Too many people only start “networking” when they are unemployed or need business. A good networker networks consistently, regardless of employment status or business status.
Networks are made up of people and, therefore, are fragile. They must be carefully managed. Too many people, however, “burn” their networks through one of these major networking mistakes.
1). Failure to return a favor. One young man who was in my network was trying to get into professional sports. I pulled a few strings and got him in contact with some of the top people in professional sports in Denver. It took me several hours and the calling in of several favors to do so.
Then, a couple of months later, I asked him a very small favor — to make a comment on a LinkedIn post I’d made. I simply asked him to state that he’d found me and my articles helpful. He refused for a truly absurd reason.
Needless to say, he can completely forget asking me for a favor in the future. While I would not “burn” him or say nasty things about him, I certainly won’t go out of my way to help him, either.
Rule: If someone in your network asks you to do a favor for them, do so if it is in your power to do so. If this person has helped you in the past, you are not only incredibly rude, but very foolish not to return the favor. You can become known as someone who knows the rules of networking, or as a complete jerk.
2). Stiffing someone in your network. Economic times are tough and things like defaults and even bankruptcies are common. But not paying the bill of someone in your network is incredibly foolish. You will rapidly gain the reputation of a deadbeat and others will not do business with you. Once you “stiff” someone your expectation of any confidentiality is out the window. If you must bankrupt, people will understand. But, after you are back on your feet, at the very least take care of those in your network to whom you owed money. Doing so will preserve and even extend your reputation for integrity.
3). Badmouthing an influential person in your network. People have large networks because they are generally either well-liked or well-respected. There are two, equally dangerous possibilities here.
a). You are also well connected and bad-mouth the well-connected person. This is like the old Soviet Union and America firing nuclear missiles at one another. It is Mutually Assured Destruction.
b). You are not all that well-connected. If you are not well connected and bad-mouth someone who is well connected, it is your funeral. Who is going to be believed? You, who have, maybe a few hundred connections in your network, or the person who is known and respected all over town? It just makes you look like a jerk and can destroy your chances of advancement in a community.
Either way, if you’re going to say something that isn’t nice about someone in your network, you’d better have photographs and negatives or a great deal of evidence. Otherwise, keep your big mouth shut and say nice platitudes.
4). Spreading rumors. People only like a gossip while they are listening to the gossip the gossip brings. But a gossip is never trusted. Any sensible person knows that they could be next on the chopping block. If you have had a bad experience with a business or individual personally, you may certainly state that clearly and unemotionally. But if you have not had personal experience, don’t spread it around. It just makes you look bad.
5). Posting negative information about a person or business on the internet. The difference between love and the internet is that the internet is forever. It is likely that you don’t have the technical skill to remain anonymous, even if you post anonymously. People, also, are not as good at hiding tell-tale styles as what they may think.
Besides this, it is completely cowardly to post a negative review of a business or person on the web anonymously. If you have something to say about a business or person, be a person of integrity and put your name to it.
Conversely, if you see anonymous negative reviews of people or businesses, ignore them. It could be competitors, a customer who was unreasonably demanding, or someone just trying to make trouble. Anonymous complaint postings are the scourge of the internet and should be prohibited.
6). Not following through. If you say you’ll do something, then do it or negotiate your way around it. Don’t just blow people off.
7). Burning bridges. If you have to exit a relationship, a job or a situation, do so with class. While a select few people may need to know all of the details, these people should be few and far between. A simple statement that you both needed to move on is usually sufficient. Even when negative information needs to be conveyed, convey it gently and with the best possible spin. Don’t ever burn a bridge.
8). Being a troll. Today’s political atmosphere is very charged. If your blood boils when reading a post or opinion, the temptation is to call names and rant and rave. Don’t. Logical, civil and well-thought-out responses are usually welcomed by most publications. But a rant is never in order.
Remember, just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t make that person evil…or even wrong. Regardless of how firm you are in your opinion, you have not had divine revelation or the gift of absolute knowledge. Hold opinions. But hold them lightly and with a sense of humor about them.
9). Assuming everyone holds your political or religious prejudices. I had a woman come into my office the other day who, within about 5 minutes, began demonizing a political view I happen to believe in. Many people have the mistaken belief that, just because they hold an opinion, everyone should and does hold the same opinion. This is often not the case. By spouting your religious, political or moral views, you can anger your network. I’m not saying that you can’t be yourself and make clear your positions. But don’t demonize a position that you don’t hold. Again, no one likes a Troll except other Trolls. Besides, Trolls live under bridges which is no fun at all.
10). Making it all about you. Your network should be a mutual aid society, not a group of people that you just tap at will to do your bidding.
11). Making unreasonable requests of your network. Asking your network to help you move your house is probably not reasonable. Ask a couple of friends or hire movers. Asking everyone in your network to endorse you on LinkedIn when some haven’t seen your work is unreasonable. And so on. Utilize your network, but utilize it for reasonable things and a reasonable amount of time.
12). SPAMming your network. While it is fine to let your network know what you’re doing business-wise every once in a while, a weekly or even monthly SPAM trying to sell something is a real no-no. Generally speaking, I don’t try to sell anything to my network unless they ask for my help. I let them know about events and keep them up to date quarterly on my business, but I don’t overtly sell things to them. This is a good way to have people drop out of your network.
13). Using your network for MLM or other shady ventures. I immediately disconnect from anyone who tries to get me involved in Multi-Level-Marketing like Amway or the like. I believe that MLM turns everyone into nothing more than a prospect to make money off of. I’ve seen families wrecked by these folks, as well as many friendships. The almost religious zeal of MLMers completely turns me off.
14). Sharing too much information with your network. I really don’t get the need that Millennial Generation people (and some Gen Xers) have to update their Facebook page with absurd information. “Going to the bathroom now. Should be a great relief.” One guy on Facebook who is connected to my wife went into great detail about his infant daughter’s bathroom exploits. Really. No one needs to know everything. For some, especially younger, people, the event or life experience is worthless unless they can immediately post it. Don’t bug your network this way. It is a network, not an intimate group of friends. Keep things that should be private in private.
Your network is one of your greatest assets in life. Don’t burn it and use it well. It will stand you in good stead for the rest of your business career.